As you may recall, my grandmother passed away last year at the age of 95.  She had a nice, long life, and was relatively healthy until near the end.  She lived alone in her own apartment until a few months before her death.

I was blessed to have been named as a beneficiary for a small life insurance policy that she took out.  I received the paperwork for it the other day, and found that the original policy had been taken out in November of 1943.

The more I sat and thought about it, the more that just absolutely amazed me.

Some facts about 1943:

  • My grandma was just 29 years old at the time.  The fact that she lived another 66 years is amazing.
  • The policy was for $500.  According to an inflation tracker tool I found, this would require that a policy worth about $6,200 would have to be taken out today.
  • The policy payments were for $1.13 per month.  That is less than many pay for a daily cup of coffee today.  Even with inflation, that’s about $13 per month.  Again, not a lot of money, but probably to a 29 year old who has no intention of dying anytime soon, it was a good sum of money.
  • There was a pretty big event going on.  We are certainly in the midst of economic upheaval.  We have unemployment, recession, debt, deficits.  Still, when you think that this was taken out smack in the middle of World War II, one can only think of what the view of the world and society must have been at that time.
  • I was nowhere close to being part of this world.  In fact, when this policy was taken out, it would be another 26 months before my father was born!
  • Political correctness / sensitivity wasn’t as big of a deal.  The policy required my grandmother to receive a checkup from a physician that filled out an attached form.  There was a small copy of this enclosed.  On this, the doctor was asked to fill out questions like “Does the candidate look older than they claim to be?”, “Is SHE pregnant?” and “Do you consider the applicant a good, fair, doubtful, or poor risk?”  I couldn’t imagine such questions being asked today without the threat of some lawsuit.
  • My grandma lived in a house I’ll never know. The address of my grandparent’s residence at the time was listed.  I’d always heard various stories about ‘when we lived on *street name*’ but seeing it made it more real.  They were relocated in the 1950’s by the state, who tore down their house to build the I-94 freeway through Detroit.  They moved to a house that they lived in until after my grandpa passed away in 1993 and was sold in (I think) 1995.  That’s the house I sometimes still drive by to capture old memories, but to know that there were other homes in my grandmother’s memory is a pretty cool thing.

This was a great find.  The certificate of insurance is actually a really, really cool thing.  The policy was underwritten by a Polish based organization, so it’s got the entire policy in both Polish and English.  The paper itself is in amazing shape.  My guess is that this policy was stored in one place for most of the past 67 years.  It’s got very few creases, the paper is barely yellow, and if it weren’t for the fact that it was typed in as having been documented in 1943, you might think it’s only a couple of decades old.

For sure, I’ll be putting this somewhere safe.  It’s fun to think that in another 67 years, maybe future generations will be able to look back and think what it must have been like, not only in 1943 but in 2010 as well.